Fringe Box



Letter: Guildford Needs Good Candidates for Its Borough Council

Published on: 9 Feb, 2023
Updated on: 9 Feb, 2023

From: David Roberts

The recent death of Jennifer Powell, a widely admired Conservative former councillor for Clandon and the Horsleys, reminds us of how much Guildford Council has changed from the cosy one-party state of fifteen or twenty years ago.

Today’s hung council, under the spotlight of social media and, thankfully, The Guildford Dragon NEWS, is a vicious place of posturing young political wannabes and stale old time-servers, devoted to attacking each other by any means possible – abusing the public complaints procedure, bending the rules on election purdah and scoring cheap points in the media.

Guildford is not immune from the national crash in standards of political behaviour. So it is no wonder that our best councillors choose not to stand for re-election, or that so few good, ordinary, decent residents want to be on the council in the first place.

Let me pin my colours to the mast. I’m a founder member of the Guildford Greenbelt Group and have supported them for ten years. But have never held any party office and would rather host acid raves for Liz Truss than be a borough councillor. An entire Whitehall career dealing with politicians was quite enough.

But the abysmal state of British local democracy, when compared with comparable countries, should worry us all, especially those with a longer future in Guildford than pensioners like me.

The work of a borough councillor is increasingly hard and poorly rewarded, especially as local government officers (unlike national civil servants in my experience) think they are in charge.

The bureaucratic tail constantly wags the elected dog, as the mess in Guildford’s planning department shows.

Still, there are compensations, not least in the unfashionable notion of public service. As the power of the free market commoditises everything, turning free citizens into docile consumers, someone needs to stand up for this.

Brexit, Covid and other calamities have shown that public servants are not just spongers on the so-called wealth creators but, as Aristotle pointed out long ago, reflect society’s highest virtues and are what make it function. And with central government now abdicating so many responsibilities, local councillors are in the front line.

I do therefore hope that people will sign up in droves to be candidates in the next local elections on May 6 – especially selfless, active people able to tolerate endless committee work and accommodate some unsocial hours. Any party affiliation (or none) will do.

Naturally, I hope they will flock to GGG, who for eight years have provided the only coherent opposition on the council but are too small to be more than a voice of reason.

More and more people want to kick national politicking out of local government. And given the cruel orgy of over-development destroying the east of the borough, anyone who stands as a GGG candidate there would surely do well.

If it’s now too late to attend today’s council briefing on becoming a councillor but perhaps they will be curious enough to read up on what’s involved here.

To quote the only good thing Mao Zedong ever said: “let a thousand flowers bloom!”

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Responses to Letter: Guildford Needs Good Candidates for Its Borough Council

  1. Jan Messinger Reply

    February 9, 2023 at 10:32 pm

    May 6th is King Charles coronation elections are Thursday 4th May

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